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We used to believe that fat was an inert storehouse of calories.   We have recently discovered that we were all wrong—fat is an active organ that produces its own hormones!  Why is this important?  How will this affect you as you attempt to lose weight?  (Read about it below).  

At Holistic Nutrition International LLC, we are keenly aware of the most advanced research and use everything we learn to help you achieve your goals.  Ever wonder why you try every diet and somehow you are still overweight? There is a lot more to weight loss than eating less and exercising more.  

Marisa J. Kruss, RD LD/N will work with you to develop an individualized science-based healing diet based on your health history, food choices/preferences, current conditions/symptoms and lifestyle that also addresses hormone imbalances as well as digestive and detoxification issues interfering with your weight loss.  If you are ready to learn what is specifically going on in YOUR body and to make the dietary and lifestyle changes that will aid YOU in achieving and maintaining vibrant health, then we are here to guide you, to teach you, and to inspire you to realize your optimal wellness. 

The Three Body Systems and Weight Loss

The three body systems include the hormonal system, the digestive system and the detoxification system.   For most people to lose weight, all three body systems need to be addressed along with a program incorporating exercise and lifestyle changes.  The hormonal system regulates our metabolic rate and controls how we burn body fat.   The digestive system provides us the nutrients we need to burn body fat.  The detoxification system, when not working properly, prevents the burning of fat stores.  Most weight problems are brought on by years of poor lifestyle choices such as inactivity and lack of sleep combined with hormone imbalances, digestive and detoxification issues.

The Hormonal System

With regards to the hormonal system, most weight gain can be traced to the adrenal, or stress, hormones.  The adrenal hormone cortisol, best known for its pivotal role in responding to stress, also promotes the burning of body fat, helps regulate emotions, and counters inflammation— all part of the body’s “fight or flight” response to threat.   Cortisol levels rise under stress, but if stress continues without enough rest for recovery, as often happens with our modern pace of life, the adrenal glands become exhausted and cortisol levels drop.  This has a chain-reaction impact on metabolism, slowing down our metabolic rate and resulting in increased body fat.  The more stress we are under, the more body fat we store.  

The Role of Cortisol

Cortisol is secreted in response to any stress in the body, physical or psychological.  Excess cortisol  leads to a breakdown of muscle protein, which releases amino acids into the bloodstream that are then converted by the liver into energy, our fuel for running away or fighting.  After the stressful event has passed, cortisol levels return to normal.  With chronic or repeated stress, the body continues to produce cortisol.  If the call on the adrenal glands to produce cortisol perpetuates, the glands eventually weaken, leading to adrenal fatigue and ultimately exhaustion or adrenal burnout.   Adrenal exhaustion leads to increased body fat, fatigue and depression.   In fact, according to scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health, adrenal exhaustion is the leading cause of depression in the United States.

Adrenal Exhaustion

With stress, a surge of cortisol prepares the body to fight off an attack or flee.  For thousands of years, this mechanism operated under conditions that would be followed by long periods of rest and full recovery.  Today, however, we are essentially locked in a culture-wide “fight or flight” state.  Poor diets, lack of exercise and sleep, and long work hours leave bodies in a chronic state of stress, with many restorative functions continually sacrificed or impaired. Adrenal exhaustion leaves people feeling lethargic and fatigued.  An abnormal adrenal rhythm also impacts:

  • Skin regeneration, causing wrinkles and premature aging
  • Sleep quality, leading to trouble falling and staying asleep
  • Bone health, which creates osteopenia or bone loss
  • Muscle and joint function, leading to achy arthritis-type joint pain and neck, shoulder, and lower back pain
  • Immune function, leading to frequent illness

Reversing adrenal burnout requires a well-designed medical nutrition therapy program, appropriate exercise, improved sleep habits, stress reduction and a dose of self-realization regarding the importance of our emotional and spiritual lives.  If left unchecked, fluctuations in cortisol have a profound impact on the sex hormones, leading to problems in women— such as PMS and menopausal symptoms— and to lowered sex drive in men.

Recent Discovery—Fat is an Active Organ that Produces its Own Hormones
How are these hormones affecting your ability to lose weight?  Read Below!

Diet, Obesity, Inflammation and Leptin Resistance

The concept of leptin resistance is a significant development in our understanding of weight gain and weight loss.  The traditional notion of fat was that body fat is simply an inert warehouse of unused calories.  From that perspective, weight management is a simple matter—exercise more, eat less, and the pounds will drop; reverse the process, and your weight will rise.  The discovery of leptin and other adipokines (hormones produced by adipocytes, or fat cells), adds depth and complexity to the study of obesity.  Fat is not an inert storehouse of calories—it is an active organ that produces its own hormones.  Because leptin, the first known adipokine, acts to reduce appetite and increase metabolism, fat actually regulates itself so that when one gains weight, the increased body fat increases the production of leptin, which tends to cause a loss of the extra weight just gained. 

The initial response of scientists to the discovery of leptin was to hope that human obesity is the result of leptin deficiency in the same way that type 1 diabetes is due to a deficiency of insulin.  However, scientists discovered that overweight people have high levels of leptin.  Their leptin just isn’t working properly.  It does not suppress appetite or increase metabolic rate the way it should.  This condition has been called leptin resistance

There are several observations about the origins of leptin resistance, which, like insulin resistance is a complex phenomenon. The most ingenious and engaging is that leptin resistance (like insulin resistance) is the result of chronic low-grade inflammation.  Because obesity itself produces chronic, low-grade inflammation, leptin resistance can be seen as part of a vicious cycle that contributes to the modern obesity epidemic.

Obesity itself is a direct cause of inflammation, in at least two major ways:

First, some hormones produced by fat cells (adipokines), even to a small extent leptin itself, promote the inflammatory response.  The more obese an individual, the more inflammatory adipokines that are produced, particularly TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor alpha) and IL-6 (Interleukin-6), which are produced by both fat cells and cells of the immune system.  TNF is known for producing the tissue damage and pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune conditions.  It can also interfere with the operation of insulin and is a major contributor to insulin resistance.  IL-6 is closely related to TNF and is associated with arthritis and heart disease.  C-reactive protein (CRP), which has been associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, is a reflection of the level of IL-6 in the body.

Second, fat attracts a type of white blood cell known as a macrophage, which also produces TNF, IL-6 and other inflammatory cytokines.  Macrophages are scavenger cells; their job is literally to consume foreign organisms and cellular debris.  Macrophages seem to be drawn to body fat because fat cells tend to leak and break open, especially in people with abdominal obesity.  Macrophages move into the leaky fat tissue in order to clean up and then they themselves begin to release TNF-alpha and IL-6.

Here is the vicious cycle of obesity and leptin resistance:  Extra fat produces chronic, low-grade inflammation.  The chronic inflammation produces a chronic anti-inflammatory response which stops leptin from reducing obesity.  So weight goes up, which causes more inflammation.  And the cycle starts all over again. 

For overweight individuals, losing weight itself reduces inflammation and improves sensitivity to the effects of both leptin and insulin.  Marisa J. Kruss, RD LD/N will work with you to develop an anti-inflammatory healing diet— the most effective way to reduce inflammation and overcome leptin resistance, thereby promoting sustained and healthy weight loss. 

Digestive System

The second body system, the digestive system, is referred to as the “mother” system because it feeds our body tissues with the nutrients we need to function.   Intestinal fungal overgrowth, which triggers over consumption of carbohydrates and sweets, and digestive tract infections such as parasites and food sensitivities play a part in weight gain.  Moreover, a perfectly functioning digestive system is an important first step in any weight loss program, as your body needs to absorb key vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids to properly regulate metabolism and burn fat.  In the majority of patients we have treated, weight gain has been connected to fungal, bacterial or parasitic infection in the GI tract.

Food allergies are another important digestive system factor affecting the success of weight loss programs.  Sensitivity to gluten (found in many grains) is the most common food reaction triggering hormone imbalance and weight gain, yet it often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.  If untreated, gluten intolerance can bring low energy, depression, obesity, and diabetes as well as high risk of osteoporosis.  Gluten intolerance is also seen in the majority of the people with eating disorders.

Problems with the digestive system and hormonal system are the most common underlying causes of weight gain in the patients that we have treated.  In other cases, the underlying cause is found with the body’s third major system, the detoxification system.

The Detoxification System

Detoxification pathways remove harmful chemicals generated from normal body functions, such as physical exertion and breathing, which create waste products that need to be removed from the tissues. Detoxification pathways are also busy removing alcohol and metabolizing (breaking down) medications, chemicals in our food such as pesticides and herbicides, along with pollutants we are exposed to in our air and water.  If you are taking in more toxins than you can flush out through the liver, kidneys, stool, and skin, you will have a backlog of waste products in the body that can cause a number of symptoms including fatigue, skin problems, irritability and poor concentration or memory.

Toxicity also leads to weight loss resistance.  Toxins are stored in fat tissue in the body and people who are overweight will hold on to fat tissue tenaciously in an attempt to protect the body from the damage that would be caused by the release of these stored toxins.  In addition, liver toxicity leads to weight gain through fluid retention and bloating as the body attempts to buffer or neutralize the negative effects of toxins on the body.  I have had countless patients quickly lose five to ten pounds of body weight that is simply excess fluid flushed out of the body as they dump out toxins.  Ironically, if you are dehydrated you will also tend to retain fluid.

Toxins build up in the body as by-products of what we consume including alcohol, prescription drugs and over the counter medications.  Additionally, in our daily lives we are exposed to environmental toxins in our air, water and food supply.  These chemicals accumulate over the course of a person’s life and contribute to clogging the liver detoxification pathways, which are alternately helped by eating healthful sources of protein and vegetables.  Vegetarians who eat insufficient protein are at risk for detoxification problems, as are people who do not eat enough vegetables.  Liver detoxification pathways can be corrected through an organic foods diet and simple lifestyle changes such as increasing water intake and appropriate nutraceutical supplementation as necessary.

Improving the Three Systems

All three body systems – hormonal, digestive, and detoxification—can be improved through lab testing and medical nutrition therapy resulting not only in weight loss, but also wellness.  At Holistic Nutrition International LLC, we have the experience to lead you to achieve your weight loss goals and maintain a vibrant healthy lifestyle for many years to come!